Pain is the ultimate signal
The only way to connect more fully to ourselves and others is by turning towards our emotional pain and healing our wounds
Principles that we understand in one part of life, we so often neglect in others.
As an example, take physical pain. If we break our foot, we feel intense pain. That pain is a signal that something is wrong. And even further, it functionally prevents us from attempting to use that broken foot to walk, which allows the body to heal itself.
In this instance, we implicitly understand that pain is an important signal - one that shouldn’t be ignored. If we ignore that pain and continue to attempt to walk or run as though we had a fully healthy foot, we understand that it may lead to further damage, and at the very least, certainly prohibits healing until we give it proper care.
We ignore pain at our own peril.
And yet, when it comes to emotional pain, we often fail to give it proper attention and care to enable healing of our underlying wounds. And we live with the negative consequences as a result.
When we leave our emotional pain unaddressed and our wounds unhealed, a downward spiral takes hold:
To cope with our pain, we turn to external mechanisms that give us short-term relief (e.g., alcohol, drugs, work/ambition, sex, etc.)
By going external for relief instead of turning inward, acknowledging, and feeling our pain and exploring its causes, our wounds remain, and remain unhealed
Refusing to acknowledge our wounds doesn’t make them disappear, regardless of how much we wish it did - our wounds are real. Neglecting to heal our wounds ensures that they continue to exist
Much like a physical infection, continually unaddressed emotional wounds fester, continuing to get worse and causing us even more pain
To make matters worse, on top of the unhealed emotional wounds, the outcomes of our external coping are empty and unfulfilling. True fulfillment doesn’t come from pleasure or numbing. Fulfillment comes from authenticity - a greater embodiment of our internal selves, unfiltered
Stack that emptiness and lack of fulfillment on top of the pain that started this whole pattern, and we end up feeling worse than we did at the start
If that pain remains unaddressed, we start all over again by turning back to external coping mechanisms, and the cycle will continue
That’s all a pretty shit situation, isn’t it?
But wait - it’s even worse than that.
Like setting a broken bone, healing our emotional brokenness hurts.
Add to that the fact that our natural human instincts and culture more broadly tell us that acknowledging pain and brokenness makes us less than, and that admitting, or god forbid being broken is therefore shameful, and it makes addressing and healing that pain even more difficult.
And that makes it even more courageous.
Ignoring our underlying emotional wounds and indulging in coping activities to deal with our pain may feel good in the short-term, but it comes back to bite us over the long-term. And relatedly, addressing our wounds may hurt in the short term, but it heals us over the long-term.
I think we often know this deep down, even if we don’t want to admit it.
Here’s the piece that we all need to hear - pain is universal. Every single human on this planet is broken and wounded. Every single human feels pain.
I think we also know this deep down, but because it feels so scary and risky to be vulnerable enough to say it, we rarely do. So, we rarely hear it.
But in truth, pain is the ultimate connector - to ourselves, and to others.
The only way to feel better is by turning towards our pain. By acknowledging our wounds and brokenness, regardless of how much it hurts in the short-term.
This is how we heal.
This is how we connect more fully to ourselves and to others.
And here’s another good part - not only will we feel better as a result, but we’ll be better too. We’ll be more authentic. We’ll be more empathetic. We’ll be more resilient.
It takes a hell of a lot of courage, but as a result, we’ll feel better, we’ll be a better, more authentic version of ourselves, and we’ll be more connected to others.
That’s a damn good deal. It’s worth the work.
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